Idea Bank: Warming to Global Warming—Sunspots and Sea-Surface Temperature by: Erich Landstrom

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In the problem-based laboratory activity described here, students evaluate the causality of changes on the solar surface in regard to climate change and warming in Earth’s environment. They use graphing calculators and real-time data from the internet to research the possible effects of sunspot activity on ocean temperatures in the Atlantic. The 5E constructivist instructional model—Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate (Bybee 1997)—is used to analyze a false hypothesis linking sea-surface temperature to the Sun.

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Reviews (4)
  • on Tue Aug 02, 2011 3:34 PM

This great article is written for an activity laid out in a 5E method. The engagement has students wondering about the connection between sunspots and economy. This is followed by students exploring NOAA data. As the students cycle through the rest of the E’s in this form of learning they come to conclusions that contribute to their understanding of global climate change in relationship to sunspots. It is a very good idea for a contemporary problem that students need to know about.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:43 PM

This article describes a wonderful project-based lesson that could be used with high school students in an Earth/Space Science course. The objective of this lesson is to evaluate causality of changes in the solar surface to changes in regard to climate change and global warming. Students use graphing calculators and online data bases that have data for the number of sunspots that have occurred each month (from NOAA) and from sensors that read sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean. Students select a 16 month period to gather data for each of these variables during the same time frame, and then graph it to see if there appears to be a causal relationship. They are given a false hypothesis from scientist named William Jevons who predicted that sunspot activity had a negative impact on our economic prosperity by causing global warming, droughts, and other events to take place. Thus students set out to find proof to support this hypothesis, and end up finding out that there doesn't

Dorian Janney  (Gaithersburg, MD)
Dorian Janney (Gaithersburg, MD)

  • on Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:02 AM

This article is about a problem-based laboratory activity in which students in a high school astronomy class evaluate the causality of changes on the solar surface in regard to climate change and warming in Earth’s environment. The description of this activity is easy to follow and follows the 5E Model of learning. All stages are provided with images of data used and the resulting graph produced. This would be a good example of how to employ problem-based learning in the classroom.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Sat Oct 16, 2010 9:30 PM

I reviewed this article and added to a collection about the effect of ocean temperatures on climate and weather. The author provides students with a claim made by a scientist in the 1600s about the number of sun spots to the temperature of the ocean. The students then, research temperature data and sunspot data and make scatter plots using graphing calculators. The students analyze the plots to see if the data supports the claim or not and write a conclusion. Nicely done article written for high school students. Middle school teachers would need to add support for students at their level in order for Middle level students to complete the task.

Susan German  (Hallsville, MO)
Susan German (Hallsville, MO)

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